It wants to be a twisty-turny thriller but it is as straightforward as its title. A man we will later know as Nick (Sam Worthington) checks into a New York hotel, orders room service (we see he has a scraped knuckle), and then he opens the window and goes out onto the ledge. Nick is indeed a man on a ledge for just about all of the rest of the movie.
Police negotiator Jack Dougherty (Edward Burns) comes in, ready to go by the book to talk Nick back inside, to make him feel that Nick can trust him. But Nick insists he will only talk to Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) and Jack does not have much to bargain with. So, against his better judgment, he tracks down Lydia, who is in disgrace with the department following a negotiation gone wrong that left her torturing herself. She has had no previous contact with Nick and has no idea why he called her, but she knows that establishing a connection with a suicide risk is critical so she is hopeful that whatever reason was behind his request will give her a place to start.
The story splits in three. We get a flashback that tells us a little bit about why Nick is so desperate. And we see that on the same block he overlooks on the ledge, a young couple (“Billy Elliot’s” Jamie Bell and the luscious Genesis Rodriguez) seem to be undertaking an exceptionally well-planned hi-tech heist. And we also meet Ed Harris as an arrogant Mr. 1%-er-style bully, chewing on an enormous cigar and barking orders: “Get me the mayor!”
We’re pretty sure how it’s all going to come together and none of it holds up to any sort of logic or reality check, but there are some entertaining moments along the way. I admit to being a sucker for heist films. I love to see the way they plan to overcome all of the security measures and I love to see what happens when things go wrong. Bell and Rodriguez have a fine rapport and their progress through the many layers of protections provides some momentum to balance the static setting on the ledge. Eventually, Lydia discovers Nick’s true identity (preposterous plot element #1 is that given his situation it is impossible to believe that no one recognizes him), a police helicopter and (of course) an obnoxious TV news reporter (Kyra Sedgewick, clearly enjoying herself very much) almost throw him off (literally, in the case of the chopper), but Nick stays focused. Worthington’s performance is bland, Harris barely qualifies as one-dimensional, and the plot falls apart in the last half hour, but Banks and Rodriguez lend warmth and humor, doing a welcome bit of heisting of their own in stealing the movie from their male co-stars.
Parents should know that this film includes some violence with fistfights, shooting, and peril, characters injured and killed, brief strong language (f-word), sexual references – some crude, and a cigar.
Family discussion: Why did Nick insist on having Lydia as his contact? Which of the unexpected developments was the toughest for Nick to handle?
If you like this, try: “The Negotiator” with Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson